On a Scale of One to Ten By Ceylan Scott

Title: On a Scale of One to Ten

Author: Ceylan Scott

Publisher: Chicken House Ltd

First Published: 3rd May 2018

Blurb:

Tamar is admitted to Lime Grove, a psychiatric hospital for teenagers. 

Lime Grove is home to a number of teenagers with a variety of problems: anorexia, bipolar disorder, behaviour issues. Tamar will come to know them all very well. But there’s one question she can’t… won’t answer: What happened to her friend Iris? As Tamar’s emotional angst becomes more and more clear to her, she’ll have to figure out a path to forgiveness. A shocking, moving, and darkly funny depiction of life in a psychiatric world. (From Goodreads, 9th April 2019).

Review:

This was a novel that I enjoyed but it was very typical of the many mental health books that I have read in the past. Tamara is admitted to a psychiatric hospital due to a suicide attempt and her self harm. Tamara is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, a very underwritten about disorder, and really the reason I was drawn to this book.

This novel focuses on the relationships Tamara creates whilst at Lime Grove. But the relationships aren’t that well developed. But when you are admitted to a psychiatric ward you are placed with individuals and don’t have long to get used to their company. You are in a world where people’s most personal thoughts are shared, so relationships do become quite deep quite quickly, or what appears to be deep. So the setting itself may be part of the issue with the lack of development of relationships and is actually quite accurate of psychiatric hospital relationships for some.

I would say that some of this novel is very on point, whilst other parts aren’t that believable. There was a lack of focus on treatment and looking at ways to change thinking and working on a better set of coping strategies, which I feel is an important aspect to novels like these. However, it is based in a hospital ward and many people do not realise that the main point of an acute psychiatric ward is to get someone stable enough so they can work on their issues outside of hospital. The hospital is to keep an individual or others safe and reach a stage that they can engage in therapy once discharged. So I feel that this was an accurate description but I feel that recovery work should be looked at in novels like these. The ending felt rushed but did focus on the concept of hope, which is possibly the most valuable part of recovery when it comes to mental health issues.

This is an own-voices novel, and therefore the author has personal experience of mental health issues and this may be accurate to how she herself felt. I felt the thoughts and feelings of Tamara really did show a real insight into the mind of an individual diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. The Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) setting was a reliable account, although I feel that some of the staff were not at all realistic, whilst others seemed pretty on point. I understand that you are going to get good and bad members of staff but I feel you are more likely to get good, some bad and some okay, and this balance was not made for me personally. But everyone has a different experience and different hospital experiences depending on the ward that an individual is admitted to so this is likely a really good representation of some wards. I think because it contrasted with my experience a bit that is why I found it difficult to relate to completely. Some parts rung true whilst others didn’t, and my own bias has probably resulted in my opinion on this.

There is also a bit of a mystery going on. What happened to Iris? And this is an intriguing plot point for the novel. And one of the reasons I liked this novel. It provides a story to follow rather than the novel being solely focused on mental health symptoms.

Overall I feel this is a book that was mixed for me, but is an account worth reading, and does depict the mind of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder well. It is in some ways very accurate, but as I have said I feel books about mental health difficulties have a responsibility to address recovery and look at things that can help. But the importance of hope, at least, was focused on.

3.5 out of 5

A Danger to Herself and Others By Alyssa B. Sheinmel


Title: A Danger to Herself and Others

Author: Alyssa Sheinmel

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

First Published: February 5th 2019

Audiobook Narrator: Devon Sorvari

Blurb:

Only when she’s locked away does the truth begin to escape… 

Four walls. One window. No way to escape. Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. She didn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at her summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctors and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. In the meantime, she is going to use her persuasive skills to get the staff on her side.

Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage. And she may be the only person who can get Hannah to confront the dangerous games and secrets that landed her in confinement in the first place. (From Goodreads, 19th February 2019)

Review:

We meet Hannah in a locked room of a psychiatric hospital, but we do not know what has brought her there. We are drawn into her mind, seeing everything from her point of view. To begin with, she only has short interactions with her psychiatrist who she names Lightfoot. Our only knowledge of why she is there is written on her file, Hannah is deemed “a danger to herself and others”. We begin to learn more about Hannah when she gains a roommate, Lucy. When Lucy arrives Hannah begins to reveal her more manipulative side and we start to feel the undertones of why Hannah may be in the hospital.

A Danger to Herself and Others is a difficult book to review as I do not want to give any spoilers. For the first third to half of the book, I was questioning a lot of the reality of the setting and treatment given which gave me an inkling about the progression of the novel. I felt uneasy about the novel but I think this was intentional. Once we learn more about Hannah and what brought her to the hospital things begin to make sense and the book became more comfortable to read.

This novel has a very constrained list of characters and focuses almost solely on Hannah and her view of things and this means we have an unreliable narrator. For some people, this novel may feel quite slow as there isn’t too much action, especially in the beginning, but it is a good insight into someone’s mind. This is what I found interesting, was the slow build-up of character. A Danger to Herself and Others is different from most books set in a psychiatric hospital that I have read as this novel does not focus too heavily on the interactions between patients, other than between Hannah and Lucy. Things begin to progress a bit faster in the second half of the book as we begin to learn more about what transpired leading Hannah to be placed in the hospital. This is when I began to enjoy the book more.

An issue I had, however, was the ending, it was sudden and although realistic it did not really highlight the potential for recovery, it focused mainly on the negatives like recurrent relapses. This I felt was a negative way to end a book, which I feel could have done more to inspire hope towards readers.

My overall opinion of A Danger to Herself and Others was that it tackled mental health problems that are usually not seen in young adult fiction. But it lacked depth into these illnesses and did not inspire hope in the way that it could have. I understand being realistic but I just felt the ending was drab. I felt a lot more could have been done with this novel.

I listened to the audiobook of A Danger to Herself and Others and felt the narrator did a fantastic job of bringing to life Hannah as a character. I would recommend listening to this audiobook for a more immersive experience.

3.5 out of 5

Wintergirls By Laurie Halse Anderson

  (Goodreads)

Blurb from Goodreads:

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

I have read a lot of novels about Anorexia. I have read a lot of biographies about Anorexia. Wintergirls however stands separate from most. Aimed at teenagers and young adults it shows the true reality of this illness. It shows the loss of power, something many don’t understand. The addiction of starving yourself. The disturbed self image. The inner anguish those with anorexia live with. The physical pain. The lack of energy.

Anderson’s Wintergirls shows the true destruction Anorexia causes. The fact that death is one of the common yet serious side effect that people forget about. Remember Anorexia has the highest mortality rates of all mental illnesses. Many authors leave out this fact. It is always recovery stories. Yes there is a story of recovery in here. But it does not shield the reader of the nastier side of this illness.

A book that is written fluently and beautifully yet showing the true devil of Anorexia.

I urge young adults and teens to pick up all the novels by Laurie Halse Anderson. They are tough reads but they are important works to educate yourself of the darker side of life and give comfort to those who have had to or are currently dealing with such issues.

4.5 out of 5